Car sales drop-off feared

Detroit's automakers and, indeed, the entire auto industry, are expected to report a historic drop-off in monthly auto sales Tuesday — a plunge that helps explain why the automakers are dramatically, and decisively, cutting production at factories during the months ahead.

In fact, when sales for the first half of the year are reported next week, they are expected to show the worst half-year performance since at least 1995, as the nation struggles through a confluence of gloomy factors that have consumers on edge.

June auto sales are expected to be off the most at Chrysler LLC, with a plummet of 27%, according to an average of forecasts from major brokerages and, the automotive consumer Web site.

At General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., meanwhile, analysts are expecting declines of about 20%.

John Mihalopoulos, owner of Rodeo Ford, a large dealer in Dallas, said the economic environment "has halted business."

"We went from selling 80 to 100 pickups a month down to 10," he said.

Brian Johnson, an auto analyst for Lehman Brothers, wrote in a note to investors Friday, that the environment "continues to take a much heavier toll on the Big Three, which are being hit disproportionately by the consumer's dramatic shift away from traditional trucks toward more fuel-efficient vehicles."

But Detroit automakers won't be the only ones feeling the pressure. Detroit Free Press

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